Sunspot almost outshines eclipse

Today marked the start of the Solar Eclipse Conference 2014 in New Mexico. The first two days of the four day conference focus on education and are being hosted by the Sacramento Peak Observatory.

In the morning we heard from Ralph Chou on eclipse safety and some of the new statistics on eye damage caused by not properly observing the Sun and Fred Espenak who spoke about what he has learned over many years of eclipse chasing, some of the do’s and don’ts with imaging.

Fred Espenak speaking on "Photographing Eclipses".  Photo and copyright Melissa Hulbert ©, all rights reserved.
Fred Espenak speaking on “Photographing Eclipses”.
Photo and copyright Melissa Hulbert ©, all rights reserved.

The afternoon was devoted to the partial solar eclipse and everyone setup cameras, telescopes, binoculars and solar glasses to observe to eclipse and a wonderful sunspot, which is said to be the largest since 1988. In fact the sunspot looks so good, even just through solar glasses that it almost over shadowed the eclipse!

There were a few clouds around during the day but by late afternoon the skies were clear and a clear view of the eclipse and the spectacular sunspot made for very happy eclipse chasers! Maximum eclipse saw just over 43% of the Sun covered by the Moon. Our observing site was next to the Dunn Solar Telescope  and being one of the highest points around (about 2800m above sea level) provides impressive views across the valleys.

Many might ask why a partial is interesting given its not total or annular eclipse? Partial eclipses all appear differently especially when sunspots are present and t also gives eclipse chasers (also known as Umbraphiles) a chance to test new gear and equipment setups ready for the next total/annular eclipse.

Maximum Eclipse. Photo and copyright Melissa Hulbert ©, all rights reserved.
Maximum Eclipse.
Photo and copyright Melissa Hulbert ©, all rights reserved.

If you have solar glasses (or specialised filters for your telescope/binoculars) then take a look at the magnificent sunspot. Otherwise, if you don’t have specialised solar viewing equipment then drop into Sydney Observatory and do a tour that includes viewing through the telescopes (weather permitting) over the next few days – this sunspot is really worth a look!














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